​Ingredient Glossary: Dates

​Ingredient Glossary: Dates

Posted by Emily on 1st Dec 2019

Dates are among the most ancient fruits ever to be cultivated. Dates were believed to be a fundamental component of the Babylonian diet nearly 8,000 years ago. Predominantly grown in North Africa and Israel, only a select few varieties make their way to the UK.

The colour spectrum for dates ranges from a honey-like yellow through red and brown, the latter being the most prevalent.

Dates in a wooden bowl

Both fresh and dried dates can be enjoyed, each offering a distinctively sweet flavour, rich and complex in nature. Their texture is luxurious and somewhat chewy. Notably, the mahogany-hued Medjool variety stands out as being particularly sweet, with a flavour reminiscent of toffee.

Availability

Though dried dates can be found throughout the year, fresh dates shine at their best from November to January.

Making the Right Choice

When choosing fresh dates, look for specimens that are plump and moist, boasting a glossy exterior. In the case of dried dates, although they may appear somewhat wrinkled, they should not look shrivelled and should still possess a plump, glossy appearance and even colouration. Dates are commonly sold whole, packaged in elongated narrow boxes or compressed into blocks.

Preparation Tips

Dried dates are ready to use immediately - slice off the required amount from the block or pick your desired number from the box. If you prefer, soaking them in liquids like tea or various forms of alcohol can enhance both their flavour and moisture content.

To de-stone a fresh date, push out the stone with your fingers. Alternatively, make a lengthwise slit to remove the stone and press the flesh back together. If you wish to remove the skin, start by pulling off the stem and then pinch one end to push the flesh out.

Storage

Fresh dates can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. Dried dates, if kept in an airtight container in a cool, dark place, will remain good for as long as a year.

Alternatives

If dates aren't to your liking, prunes make for an excellent alternative.

112,113,118,122,125,126,131,116